Daily prayer is essential to the Christian life and the psalms are prayers inspired for us by God. They were prayed in the Old Testament Jewish Temple and within the New Covenant Christian Church up to our day. Here are five fresh ways to pray the psalms:
1. Pray Jesus’ Passion Psalms
For thousands of years, Jews have ritually prayed Psalms 113–118 at their Passover meals. These are psalms of joy and thanksgiving at God delivering his people. At the Last Supper, Jesus and his apostles chanted these psalms: “Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:26, Matthew 26:30)
Later, hanging on the cross, Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” This is the opening line of Psalm 22, which describes the anguish of someone suffering just like Jesus. For example, it says, “They have pierced my hands and my feet…” The psalm, however, ends in hope: “I will live for the LORD.”
Praying these psalms (113-118 & 22) can connect us more to Jesus and his Passion.
2. Pray the Psalms Through Jesus or Mary
Would you like to read Jesus and Mary’s prayer book? This is what we have in the psalms. Being faithful Jews, Jesus and his mother would have known them well and prayed them often. A fresh way to approach the psalms is to open yourself to sharing in Jesus or Mary’s thoughts and emotions. Praying with their minds and hearts helps us to experience the psalms with new insights and depths.
3. Pray the Psalms to Jesus
Jesus said, “The Father and I are one,” and St. Paul wrote, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” (John 10:30, Philippians 2:11) Therefore, wherever the psalms mention “(the) Lord,” substituting “Jesus” usually applies just as truly. Here, for example, is a converted passage from Psalm 27:
Hear my voice, Jesus, when I call;
have mercy on me and answer me.
“Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”;
your face, Jesus, do I seek!
Praying the psalms’ to Jesus in this way brings us personally closer to him. Here are a few suggested Jesus Psalms: 3, 27, 86, 100, 103, & 138.
4. Pray Repeating Each Line of the Psalm
As you read through a psalm, pray each line twice, meditating on the profound, absolute truth of each statement. Praying in this way helps to make the prayer “yours” and yields greater focus and personal conviction.
5. Pray the Psalms for Others
Some people do not, or cannot, pray the psalms. Some lack belief in God and prayer. Others feel too overwhelmed by their pains, anxieties, or other burdens to offer these prayers themselves. Among the 150 psalms there are prayers for the vast range of human experience. Not everyone will resonate with your personal situation on a particular day, but each one is exactly the prayer that, somewhere, someone else desperately needs. Pray it for them to help them go through their darkness into the light.